I had not planned on writing about this. Going in this screamed B level pay per view to get us to the draft, and only of the title matches was not a foregone conclusion going in. And yet here I am because it turned out to be much more than that.
Liv Morgan vs Carmella
Putting this on the kickoff show turned out to be the right move, because they got time to work that they may not have gotten on the main show. For kickoff matches it was very good and a good way to start off the show. It’s long past time for Morgan to become a TV regular; the starting and stopping hasn’t helped her one bit I’m what was supposed to be a growth year for her. Either move her to RAW so she can get more time or move some people off of Smackdown in the draft to clear out space for her.
New Day vs Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles, and Omos
This might be the best late addition pay per view match ever. New Day can work a good six man tag in their sleep, Bobby has been peaking this year and AJ is still great. Perfect match to open the main show with and lots of great work throughout. I was hoping to see Omos get some more action but there were seeds planted for a future match between AJ and Big E and maybe even AJ and Bobby. Kofi Kingston worked his ass off in this match from start to finish. Great work all around.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: The Usos (c) vs The Street Profits
The match started out with them playing the hits but really picked up in the last few minutes. Both teams are so good and the Usos in particular have been doing this for so long that it’s easy to take their work for granted. This match was a prime example of that. The Usos retaining was the right move; until it’s time for their story with Roman to take that turn there’s no point in them losing the belts.
RAW Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair (c) vs Alexa Bliss
This was the match with the most even betting odds going in. Charlotte is always a favorite on a big show to win and Alexa is for all intents and purposes the fifth Horsewoman when it comes to booking. She’s also beaten all the other Horsewomen for championships, a feat no one else has pulled off. Then there’s the weird tic that WWE has of people losing in their hometowns to add some more confusion to any prognostications.
Now a month ago Alexa was still in full on spooky girl mode, which made the prospects for this match kinda bleak to be honest. But as she and Charlotte went at it on the mic to set things up she slowly shed a lot of the more weird parts of her Fiend associated persona save for her doll Lilly, and this looked more like it would be a proper wrestling match than the laughingstock kind of affairs that Alexa has been doing all year.
The match ended up being quite good, easily the best one Alexa has had in years and a top five entry for her catalog for sure. They only went 11 minutes, so it did kind of feel like there was another gear in reach that they didn’t get to go to. But it was good to see Alexa get to work a real match again after a year of hocus pocus and all. The aftermath, where Charlotte destroyed Lilly sets the stage for a full on horror movie revenge plot of some kind, too.
US Title Match: Damien Priest (c) vs Sheamus vs Jeff Hardy
Sheamus was the MVP of this match, and it’s great to see him finally start to get recognized in all corners of the fandom for what he brings to the table. 2021 has essentially been a love letter to the fella as he’s gotten to work with darn near everyone important, has had some great matches, you name it. Hardy is beloved by all as he hits the home stretch of his career and Priest is on the cusp of becoming a really big deal.
Anyone who tells you that Punishment Martinez from Ring of Honor could become this is lying to you. While the skills were there all other aspects of his development should be credited to NXT, and later Vince McMahon. The match was lots of fun and gave us all what we needed with Priest winning while Hardy and Sheamus got another well deserved moment in the sun.
Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Becky Lynch vs Bianca Belair
This match had so much riding on it. Validation of the shocking Summerslam decision for Becky to beat Bianca like she did. Certification of Becky’s heel turn. And Bianca holding her own against what could have been a tidal wave of perception against her future had she not met the challenge. How the match ended and how it answered those questions was more important than anything else to be honest.
The match itself was great. Becky works much better as a heel, in my opinion, and Bianca is so dynamic on offense that just letting her go while Becky escaped and countered was the best way to go. Bianca showed out big time here displaying all of her power and athleticism; she’s easily the best female athlete to ever work there and maybe the best all around athlete period (you can make an argument for someone like Kurt Angle who was an Olympic gold medalist but she can do things in there that he couldn’t if we’re gonna keep it 100).
But none of that mattered if the finish was wrong. Everyone I talked to assumed Becky was retaining, and the only real question was how to protect Bianca in the process. Well leave it to Vince to come up with something none of us were expecting in the form of one Sasha Banks. Banks interfering for the DQ and attacking both women sets the stage for a three way feud, draft results notwithstanding, to carry things through the fall. Some of you guys don’t care for DQ finishes but in this case it works.
The only issue I have with it is that now it kinda blurs things on Becky’s heel turn. Bianca was really the only person to do the turn with, and it was slowly coming around, but with a clearly heel Sasha around now what? And there’s the still the question of what comes after this. Will the people who have come around to boo Becky now keep doing as soon as there’s someone else opposing her? We’ll see, but well executed work here regardless.
Main Event: Roman Reigns vs Finn Balor
They delivered as we all expected. Roman mocking the ‘we want tables!’ chant and putting on a mask to go fight Finn in the crowd is A plus character work that no one else is doing right now. Having seen him in person recently I can tell you that no one working right now is as plugged into the people in the building and how to communicate to them as Roman Reigns. That is the difference between him and anyone else performing right now, anywhere. We can talk about moves, and he’s shown he can match those with the best of them, but being the best performer in the business is about so much more than that.
As for the red light power up, and the ring breaking finish? Look people, sometimes you need to be reminded just what the hell you’re watching. Scaffold matches, Buried Alive matches, matches where you have to strap your opponent into an electric chair and flip the switch to win (the totally absurd Chamber of Horrors match), a Zombie biker mortician who was revived by a bolt of lighting INDOORS, Papa Shango, the Fiend……you’re really drawing the line here? Just stop it already.
Is it what I would have come up with? Well no, but I’m good with it. Chalk it up to divine intervention and move on. The owner of the company literally feuded with God as an angle for crying out loud. The point was for Roman to win and protect the Demon character to some extent. Mission accomplished on both.
This takes the crown as their best show top to bottom for the year. Not a single skip on the whole show, even the preshow. The match times were good, nobody overstayed their welcome here. The mix was good with women’s and men’s matches (3 and 4, respectively) and title vs nontitle matches (5 to 2). And the shenanigan finishes that took place added to future storylines. Since the fans came back there has been much interweaving of Pay Per Views and television, and it played out perfectly here. Great job all around.